By Jeremiah Tucker
JOPLIN, Mo. —
I haven't consulted a calendar to see if it is, officially, summer. That kind of due diligence is why I'm paid in discounted tickets to Branson shows redeemable during non-peak hours.
But, experientially, I'd say summer is here. People on Facebook are posting pictures of their food blackened with carcinogens on outdoor grills and breathlessly keeping us abreast of every fascinating development in their vacation plans. What surer sign is there?
So that means it's time to begin speculating what the song of the summer is going to be. Lodged at the No. 1 spot on the Hot 100 with the apparent permanence of a tattoo sleeve is "Can't Hold Us" by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis. But even if it stays there for another month, I doubt it will achieve the ubiquity and cultural consensus to be song of the summer. It peaked too early.
My early pick for the front-runner would be Daft Punk's "Get Lucky," currently at No. 4, but with a lot of heat behind it. And it's a worthy successor to last year's SOS, Carly Rae Jepsen's "Call Me Maybe." Both are songs about possibility -- a good subject for summer nights.
No matter which single takes the crown, what's important is for you to make the most of the next three months. What makes the song of the summer important is that, regardless of how you feel about it, you can't avoid it. The warm weather lures you outside or entices you to open your window, and like a jungle cat evolutionarily gifted with predatory patience, the song of summer pounces.
Years from now you will hear the familiar strains of the long-ago smash, and memories of this summer will slowly cohere. So make sure they're good ones -- even if you can't stand the song.
'Game of Thrones'
"Game of Thrones?" More like "Game of Throat Slits," am I right? (Full disclosure: I recycled this joke from my sporadically updated Twitter account, and I highly suspect I was not the first to make it. But, seriously, that was a lot of cut throats.)
For anyone who hasn't watched last Sunday's episode of the popular fantasy series on HBO and has yet to discover the Internet, where it's been discussed endlessly since airing, I will refer to the events only obliquely here. But, man oh man, I've read the books the show is based on, so I knew what was coming, and it was still a gut punch.
I enjoy author George R.R. Martin's subversion of the conventional rhythms of genre, and I appreciate that in his universe populated with dragons, ice zombies and warlocks, the most frightening monsters remain men hungry for power. But, jeez, is it ever grim!
Part of the problem, more so in the books than the TV show, is that I'm often left wondering why the second-leading cause of death in Westeros after "casualty of political machinations" isn't suicide. If I were a character, Ser Jeremiah of House Tucker -- our sigil the tadpole -- I would kill myself immediately.
What is there to live for in Westeros? Sure, characters frequently indulge in booze and athletic sex, but so do the characters of "Entourage," another HBO show set in a terrible place, populated by awful people. But at least I understand why Turtle doesn't succumb to the sweet embrace of death. That high-end tequila isn't going to promote itself.
Of course, "Game of Thrones" is a vastly superior show to the mostly execrable "Entourage." I just wish there were more moments of levity, companionship, warmth -- the stuff that makes life worth living. You get some, such as the platonic screwball romance between Jaime Lannister and Brienne of Tarth.
But in the world of Westeros, you're often left deducing how much the characters meant to each other by experiencing the survivors' grief after witnessing their loved ones come to ruin instead of ever getting to watch them enjoy each other's company.
Perhaps this is a deliberate philosophical choice to show that life is filled with more suffering than pleasure, but even a scrap of happiness makes persevering worth it, such as when Sam finds within himself courage enough to save Ygritte and her baby boy.
Even so, by this point most characters seem to live purely to spite their enemies. And it's with a similar spirit that I'll continue watching and reading, hoping that Jon Snow and his half-sister, Arya, bring sweet revenge to all the enemies of Winterfell. But I suspect Martin will deny me even that.